How to Get a District of Columbia Driver’s License
The District of Columbia has a Graduated Driver License program, or GDL, that will give you time to learn how to drive in a controlled way. There are three stages to this program, from no license to full license.
Completing the DC GRAD program takes about two years. Pass a knowledge and vision test to get your Limited Purpose learner permit at 16. Complete the permit phase, and pass a road test, to get your Provisional License. Drive for at least 6 months and turn 18 to get a full DC driver’s license.
The steps below have the details you’ll need to know to get your full, unrestricted DC driver’s license.
Get your District of Columbia learner’s permit
You can start the process to get your license at 16. To get ready for driving, you can download the DC DMV Driver Manual and start reading through it. At your local DC Department of Motor Vehicles Service Center, you’ll need to fill out an application, bring in proof of identity, and pay a fee of $20 by debit card or check.
You will be given an official paper which is your DC learner permit. You’ll need to have that with you every time you’re behind the wheel.
You must have your permit for at least 6 months before you can apply for a regular license. During that time, you’ll need to have 40 hours driving practice in learner’s stage with 10 hours at night during the intermediate stage. There are also limits to your permit and they are as follows:
- You must pass a vision test, knowledge test ($10) and provide documentation that proves your identity, residency, and eligibility among other things
- You are only allowed to drive supervised between the hours of 6 am and 9 pm
This is the point also where you’ll need to get driving instruction. The options for this include asking a parent or guardian to supervise or complete a driver education program. While driver education is not a requirement in the District of Columbia, the purpose is to prepare new drivers for the challenges of the road.
For those who are interested in the DC DMV approved driver education course that consists of 30 hours of classroom instruction and eight hours of behind-the-wheel instruction, it is offered by driving schools that have been certified by DC DMV.
When you’re ready to enroll in DC DMC approved driver education find a driving school to get started.
Once you’ve completed the required amount of instruction, you can apply for your driver’s license.
Get your District of Columbia provisional license
Receiving your license requires that you’ve completed certain requirements. Those are reaching the age of 17.
Driving Skills Test: You will be required to pass a driving test with a DCDMV evaluator who will make sure you can perform basic driving tasks safely.
Before you take it, you should check out The Top 10 Automatic Fails on Driver Tests, so you’ll know what not to do on test day.
Vision Test: You will need to take a vision test. If you need glasses be sure you’re wearing them.
The application fee for your license is $47
Your license will be mailed to you and will have your photograph on it. They take your picture the day you pass your driving skills test. This license will come with the following restrictions:
- You must be at least 17 years old.
- You must have held a valid provisional license for at least 6 months.
- You must not have, for at least 12 consecutive months (including your 6 months driving with a learner permit and 6 months driving with a provisional license), admitted to, been liable for, or been convicted of an offense for which points can be assessed to your driver license.
- You must provide a signed form certifying that you have practiced night driving skills for at least 10 hours, accompanied by a driver who is 21 years old or older and who has a valid full driver license. The form is available at the link below:
- Certification of Eligibility for Full License with Conditions Form
- You will have to submit a photocopy of the driver license of your accompanying driver with this form.
- You can drive alone.
- If you are under 18 years old, you can drive with no more than 2 passengers under age 21. This restriction does not apply to passengers who are your siblings.
- If you are under 18 years old, you cannot operate a motor vehicle other than a passenger vehicle or motorized bicycle used solely for the purposes of pleasure and not for compensation.
- You and your passengers must wear seatbelts at all times.
- If you are under 18 years old, your parent or legal guardian is notified of your GRAD violations.
Driving hours are restricted for full license drivers between the ages of 17 and18 years old. Details on the restrictions vary by age and month of the year so for the full restricted driving schedule and all additional information on the GRAD program visit dmc.dc.gov.
Once DMV approves the customer submission, the customer will be mailed a Full District of Columbia driver’s license with Conditions to the address of record.
As you continue to learn how to operate a motor vehicle in different conditions, there are certain hours when you won’t be able to drive. Those are:
September through June: 11:00 p.m. To 6:00 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 12:01 a.m.-6:00 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. From July to August: 12:01 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. every day.
Get your full unrestricted Washington DC driver’s license
At a certain point, the state feels that you’ve been able to receive enough supervised driving experience that you can go out on your own. Therefore, once you reach 18 and have had your restricted license for 6 months, or you turn 21, you can get your full license.
This means that previous restrictions are lifted. However, you will not receive an updated license until that one expires. After you renew your license, you will receive your full, unrestricted license in the mail.
Whether you’ve just finished your District of Columbia graduated licensing process, or are just starting out, you might also want to consider a telematic companion application to better understand your driving habits, and how to improve them.
The best option is the DriverZ Virtual Coach. Download it today to sharpen your S.P.I.D.E.R.Senses™ to build the driving skills that will keep you safe for a lifetime, track your supervised driving hours, and access bespoke driver training based on your specific needs.
Frequently asked questions
Here are some other details which are good to know as you start out on your DC graduated licensing journey.
Can I drive with an out-of-state learner’s permit in Washington DC?
No. The District of Columbia does not recognize learner’s permits issued by another other jurisdiction or State.
What happens if my learner permit or driver license is lost or stolen?
Depending on the information you have on file with the DC Department of Motor Vehicles you will either have to request a replacement document online or in person. Visit their replacement page to find out if you qualify. If you do, you can begin by filling out your request with the DCDMV Online Replacement System.
District of Columbia Department of Motor Vehicles information
For comprehensive information on everything related to the District of Columbia graduated licensing program, visit the District of Columbia Department of Motor Vehicles You can also call (202) 737-4404. Office hours vary by location so, if inquiring in person, find your local DCDMV Service Station to see when they’re open.
Prepare for your license journey by reviewing the District of Columbia Driver Manual.